The ethanol blend could pose a major concern for the fight against hunger in India. What is the role of food grains in the process?
The worst nightmares about the existence of food grains could become a reality. It is used to make ethanol, and what is more painful is the consent approval provided by the Modi government. A horrific story about food grains was captured when stories about the build-up of central stocks purchased from farmers at minimum support prices erupted. The government has decided to allocate 78,000 tonnes of rice to ethanol.
What is more worrying is the price of rice offered to the distilleries for their supply. Rs 2,000 per quintal is much lower than the economic cost, and the cost derived from MSP is prevalent in food grain markets across India. The MSP for common paddy during the Kharif season is 1,940 rupees per cwt, but the rice recovery ratio stands at 67 percent. Against the background of the price of rice, it is collected from the MSP at Rs 2,895.5 per quintal, and the economic costs are extravagant. A developing economy like India cannot afford to derail its food grains in the manufacture of blended products; otherwise, we would enrich a huge hunger crisis.
Let’s look at the design behind the unloading of food grains for ethanol-
India’s projection to complete ethanol blending by 2025 promulgates a massive breakthrough in the design of the use of food grains. The synopsis of the decision was undertaken and prepared by the expert committee in June 2021. Niti Aayog led it with the Ministry of Oil and Natural Gas and made a strong effort to disseminate the proportion of pool stocks. Senior officials of the organizations did not give a think tank on food security, which should have been the priority amid the global crisis.
The bill for Indian imports of petroleum products is rising rapidly with limited resources available on the home front. 85% of oil is imported into India, a distressing figure for the second largest population in the world. India’s import bill for the 2020-21 fiscal year was estimated to be $ 55 billion, and if the ethanol blend is delivered brilliantly, the government could save Rs 30,000 crore. . But this does not coincide with the fact that the use of food grains is a bad tactic and could introduce a debacle dilemma into the existence of hunger in India.
Why are other food grains used and their consequences on the Indian population?
Our standard of living revolves around the satisfaction of needs, and food availability plays an essential role. Imagine a pattern where the majority of the population is ignored for obtaining basic commodities. This would be problematic because household lakhs would be deprived of a full-time meal. Indeed, we cannot move towards the global hunger epidemic. Unlike food safety, the Union government has recommended using sugar in the ethanol blend, and it has been widely targeted by the policy overhaul.
In 2018, senior officials pronounced the National Biofuels Policy, which claimed that 20% of the ethanol blend would be achieved by 2030. However, in December of last year, the administration changed its policy and limited the target for ethanol in gasoline by 2025. A five-year cut would have grabbed manufacturers for rapid production; that is why the government is looking for alternatives. The Cabinet Committee endorsed the DFPD’s proposal to decide on the direction of providing financial assistance to the ongoing ethanol program. He called for the distribution of rice, wheat, sugar cane and other products, as well as an interest subsidy scheme for distilleries for the acquisition of the items listed.
India controls a large sugar production of around 300-310 lakh tonnes, and that is why its distribution in the ethanol blend is proclaimed in high concentration. The domestic demand is compared to 250-260 million lakh tons, which leaves the producers with an excessive amount. Thus, the current season will observe the diversification of sugar towards ethanol, inducing a dynamic factor in sweets. The ten-year policy monitoring will have a delayed impact as the government is not expected to focus on establishing new sugar factories, considering the situation in water-poor areas of India.
Even though ethanol manufacturing has been substandard since 2019-2020, it looks like a well-designed plan focused on converting sugar to ethanol. However, a subsidized form of incentive to the sugar sector would only apply if the government renounces to set prices higher than world prices.
Amid the incentives, we could succumb to a massive drop.
The World Hunger Index ranks the world’s economies according to criteria of food availability, distribution, etc. India ranks below that of its neighbors, placed at the 94th position out of 107 countries. In a skeletal and chronically developing country like India, blending ethanol is inappropriate but unethical. India’s poorly managed policy on food grains that can be distributed under public distribution programs will be highlighted. The mixture of gasoline and ethanol could be correct in a scenario where the population is well fed, unfortunately, which is not the case in our country.
The idealism of manufacturing on the poor has dragged more people into the poverty line. According to an estimate provided by Azim Premji University, urban areas have succumbed to a 20% increase in poverty. This is mainly in the aftermath of the pandemic, leaving aside the consequences of the second wave. If the real representation of India’s poor people is discovered, we will have a perspective on the hunger crisis. The situation continues to deteriorate and it may be years before it reaches pre-pandemic levels.
How the government was able to change its approach to one that was successful
Ideally, in the event of a food crisis, the Indian government should step up its efforts and respond to the needs of the citizens. The Ministry of Food and Public Distribution should distribute any excess food supply to the poor, rather than developing it for ethanol. In ten years, agroecological requirements would pose a dramatic problem for the manufacture of ethanol. There would be no incentive distribution of available food grains due to the reduction in commodities. The idea of delivering subsidized food grains to distilleries seems futile given the breadth of the outlook.